Tag

economy

The American Families Plan – the Good, the Bad, and a lot of Debt

By | 2021, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

The U.S. middle class is shrinking. There has been growing polarization as the rich become richer and the poor become poorer. The Biden administration is proposing the American Families Plan to be a “once in a generation investment to rebuild the middle class and invest in America’s future.”1 Here are some of the key points and their potential impact if the plan is enacted.

Making Education Affordable
The Biden administration plans to make education more affordable and expand opportunity. It is proposing two free years of community college and lower costs for minorities to attend college or a university. The amount of Pell Grants may increase. There could also be universal access to free pre-kindergarten (preschool).

Providing Economic Security for Families
The goal is to make it easier for everyone to have “the opportunity to join the workforce and contribute to the economy.” The plan does this by ensuring that no one earning under 150% of the state median income pays more than 7% of their income on high-quality care for children. The plan also provides paid family and medical leave to care for a new child or for a serious illness.

Expanding Tax Credits to Help Workers and Families
The plan uses tax credits to transfer wealth to those with lower income. It proposes tax credits of up to $8,000 to cover childcare expenses for a family with children under age 13 who make under $125,000. The income phase-out moves from $125,000 to $438,000. The plan also increases child tax credits for the next 5 years from $2,000 per child to $3,600 for children under age 6 and $3,000 if over age 6. It also makes permanent the earned income tax credit for low-income childless workers.

Impact
As with all legislation, there would be good, bad, and unintended consequences. We do need a workforce educated for our modern economy. Education is a key to opening opportunities.

Families with children stand to benefit, especially low-income families who would gain access to childcare.

There is some concern that the administration “strongly prefers getting kids out of the home and parents into the workforce.” There is also a concern that “too much focus on federal mandates might be detrimental to the effects on children who otherwise might be raised with the involvement and investment of a parent.”2

Taxes are another concern. Right now, the administration is only planning tax hikes for high-income earners, investors, and corporations. Additionally, the administration is planning an infrastructure spending bill. We are facing a massive national debt that is at $28 trillion and may reach $89 trillion by 2029.3

Social Security and Medicare also have to be fixed. There isn’t a way to tax the “wealthy” enough to account for all of the government spending. As taxes go up, the economy may slow. This could be the unintended consequence that we fear.

Most people agree with the stated goals of this plan: providing education and opportunity. We want to help families have financial security. The challenge is paying for these programs. It will remain to be seen what the final impact is on the economy, the lower and middle classes, and the family as the fabric of society.

1 https://www.whitehouse.gov/american-families-plan/
2 https://www.ksl.com/article/50168776/mitt-romney-i-didnt-realize-i-was-at-a-disadvantage-because-my-mom-stayed-home
3 https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikepatton/2021/05/03/us-national-debt-expected-to-approach-89-trillion-by-2029/?sh=5bd9292a5f13

Tags: , , , , , ,

Has All This Stimulus Created A Rational Bubble?

By | 2021, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

One of the most absurd and fascinating financial stories of the pandemic was Hertz. Yes, the Hertz that pre-Covid was the second-largest rental car company. Last April, it had 700,000 vehicles sitting idle and $19 billion in debt! On May 22, 2020, Hertz filed for bankruptcy protection. Then, just a few days later, the stock began a miraculous rise.

Between May 26th and June 8th, Hertz stock rose nearly 1,000%. A savvy investor might think that after all creditors are paid, there may be something left over for stockholders. In reality, Hertz had become one of the first social media stocks of the pandemic.

Individual investors encouraged each other to buy Hertz because it was “going to the moon” and “You Only Live Once,” also known as just YOLO.

Hertz recently announced it might be purchased for just under $5 billion—a number far below the $19 billion in debt. Eventually, investors realized this would happen because the stock could not stay above its June 2020 high. In reality, it is now worth approximately zero.

We have seen the manic rise and fall of many stocks, most of them in January and February of this year and most of them unprofitable. The reasons are complicated, but we will summarize them below:

(1) Gamification of investing with free phone apps
(2) People stuck at home with more free time
(3) Free money from Uncle Sam
(4) Leverage through the use of options
(5) Market makers hedging their risks
(6) Short sellers forced to cover

Let’s focus on the one that impacts all of us as investors: “free money.” The U.S. government has now approved three rounds of stimulus, totaling around $6 trillion. (An additional $4 trillion from the Federal Reserve went into financial markets over the last year.)

As described in the graphic below, the majority of Americans are not planning to spend the stimulus immediately. It has led Americans to save more money in the past year than any other time recorded in U.S. history!

Combine all these savings with reduced household debt, and we get a very flexible consumer. Remember, consumer spending is 69% of the U.S. economy.

Much of these savings will eventually get spent or find their way into investments, which is why some have called the rise in the stock market a “Rational Bubble.”

The health situation has drastically improved since January. While the United States continues to face even more contagious variants of Covid-19, vaccine distribution has substantially expanded. As of March 15th, over 90 million doses had been administered. Plus, approximately 2 million more Americans receive a dose each day.

Nationally, the best-case scenario may be happening. High economic growth (likely to top 6% this year) and low inflation (rising to possibly 3%) make it easier to handle the heavy level of debt. Many states, from New York to California, are easing restrictions. Other, less densely populated states are already way ahead in reopening.

In Utah, the governor thought we would have a massive deficit when shutdowns began last spring. Instead, the state ended up with a $1.5 billion surplus, and in February 2021, Utah had an unemployment rate of just 3.1%.

A year ago, many debated what the financial recovery would look like. Would we have a sharp rebound or a V-shaped bounce, or would it be a slower U-shaped or volatile W-shaped recovery?

The reality has been a letter not previously used to describe economics, but one that I think we will see again in the future. Our current progress has been called a K-shaped recovery because while it has been good for some, it has been difficult for others. As we emerge in Spring 2021, we hope to see more joyful and prosperous times for all.

*Research by SFS. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal. The S&P 500 index is widely considered to represent the overall U.S. stock market. One cannot invest directly in an index. Diversification does not guarantee positive results. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and may not actually come to pass. This information is subject to change at any time, based upon changing conditions. This is not a recommendation to purchase any type of investment.

Tags: , , , , , ,

2021 – Year of the Vaccine

By | 2021, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Irrational Exuberance
On January 7, 2021, Elon Musk tweeted a recommendation that people replace the social media app Slack with Signal. Instantly, the stock for Signal Advance, Inc. began to climb. It finished the day up over 500%. Unfortunately, Signal Advance does not have a social media app.

Investors should have started selling the moment the mistake was publicized. Instead, the stock kept rising. In less than a week, Signal Advance rose 11,700%!

Let’s look deeper into what a number like this really means. An investor who owned $10,000 of this stock would have had nearly $1.2 million three days later. Of course, groups often move in irrational ways, but at some point, the truth begins to matter. On the fourth day, it had an epic fall, giving up most of the gains.

Behavior like this has happened before. In fact, it was common back in 1999. On April 1, 1999, The Wall Street Journal reported the story of AppNet Systems, which filed to have its stock publicly traded. That day, investors began buying up Appian Technology. Despite being described as an “inactive company,” the stock rose 142,757% in two days. Needless to say, it didn’t end well for most of these investors.

In 1999, online trading was new, and so were the internet chat rooms where investors could share stock tips. It seemed that nothing could stop the momentum.

Warning Signs from 2000
Technology stocks began to fall in February 2000, and the rest of the market began to fall in March. What triggered the decline? Were there any signs?

(1) Was it Yahoo’s addition to the S&P 500 on December 7, 1999, which signified the acceptance of technology domination in the investment world?

(2) Perhaps it was the symbolic show of a new world order when internet upcomer AOL purchased media giant Time Warner on January 10, 2000?

(3) Finally, could it have been that the S&P 500 price divided by future earnings was at an all-time high of 26 in February 2000?

(If you don’t remember or have never heard of AOL, well, that proves the point I am trying to make. Good investing is very different from speculation.)

Investor Mindset
Greater and greater stimulus from the federal government and the Federal Reserve have created an environment where some investors are only focused on return. They ask themselves, “How much money do I want to make?” Then, they invest accordingly.

Of course, there is no limit to how much money most people want, which is exactly why this won’t last forever. The stock market is not an ATM.

This bull market will end. However, it is difficult to accurately predict the timing of a falling market when in the middle of a powerful bull market. It could be in February or, with all the government support, it may keep going throughout 2021.

Government stimulus and all the new money that comes with it will have to go somewhere. This could be a great support for investors as 30% of the stimulus is not needed by its recipients and gets saved. Roughly the same amount is spent, and another part pays off debt. All of these help the stock market either directly or indirectly.

If even more stimulus comes in 2021, then we can expect more spending and more investing.

What could go wrong in 2021?
Unintended consequences are an incredible risk for the unprecedented government stimulus we have experienced. However, we have not seen any major negatives yet. Until we do, it is quite possible that the stimulus will continue to flow in 2021.

I will be keeping an eye on inflation. In the Great Depression, America had the New Deal. People were paid to work. In the pandemic of 2020, people were just paid.

As the money is spent, demand could outstrip supply, and prices could rise. If inflation somehow reaches 3% in 2021, then I believe the Federal Reserve will take the punch bowl away from the party. For now, Fed Chairman Powell says he is “not even thinking about thinking about” doing that. So, no reason to panic.

What could go right in 2021?
I expect a great rotation to begin at some point in 2021. This change could end what I would call the profitability of speculation. However, it does not necessarily mean a crash in the market. I’ll explain.

When the economy was barely growing over the last 10 years, it didn’t make sense to run from growth. This made it possible for technology, which was a poor investment from the year 2000 through 2008, to become a leader. Technology was the undisputed leader of 2020 as it was also well positioned for the stay-at-home economy during the pandemic.

Technology represents over 25% of the U.S. stock market, but this is not a fixed level. Just before falling out of favor in 2000, it was 30%. By 2008, it was only 15%.

Keep in mind that in 2020, technology only represented 6% of the U.S. economy and just 2% of employment. That means there is a massive amount of opportunity out there just waiting to regain strength. I believe that at some point in 2021, we will get that change of focus and market leadership.

International stocks, small company stocks, industrial stocks, and energy stocks have already begun to strengthen after years of lagging behind.

Only time will tell, but if the new trend continues as it has over the last few months, then we may be seeing new market leadership that will point the way forward for years to come.

*Research by SFS. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal. The S&P 500 index is widely considered to represent the overall U.S. stock market. One cannot invest directly in an index. Diversification does not guarantee positive results. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and may not actually come to pass. This information is subject to change at any time, based upon changing conditions. This is not a recommendation to purchase any type of investment.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

What does a Biden presidency mean for the economy and investing?

By | 2021, Executive Message, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

The recent election has some people elated and others in the depths of despair. While we don’t focus on the political ramifications, we can consider some of the financial impacts that may come. There is no guarantee that any of these will happen, but here are some possibilities:

We get more stimulus: In the short-run, this is a great thing for our economy and the market. There are too many Americans and businesses that are still struggling and need help to get through this pandemic. The long-term challenge is how to pay down the government debt.

Taxes go up: Even before the election, we knew that taxes needed to go up because of the massive amount of government debt. We have been at historically low tax rates. While tax rates seem unlikely to go up soon, don’t plan on them staying this low forever. Depending on your situation, you may want to realize taxation of some assets now to avoid paying taxes in the future. Consult with your financial and/or tax advisor.

Interest rates go up: They will probably still stay low for a while (i.e. 1-2 years). However, they will probably start going up after that. Increasing rates are good for savers and bad for borrowers. CD’s may pay a decent rate in the future, but affording a home will get harder.

Investing in ESG goes up: ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance, also known as sustainable investing. With the Democrats in power, companies that are ESG friendly should get a boost. Examples of companies that will benefit include green energy, health and safety, and companies that promote diversity.

The economy will grow: The economy will probably start to recover quickly at first as we accelerate out of the global pandemic. However, growth will probably be slowed down by taxes and inflation after that, but it will still go in the right direction.

The market may go up: In the long-run, this is certainly likely. Over the coming months, the market could go up because of the recent stimulus and the prospect of more stimulus. A great deal of this money is likely to go directly into investments, while some will boost the economy through spending.

There may be some softness after that. But, as the economy fully recovers from the global pandemic, the market should continue its march higher. The market has shown that it doesn’t matter which political party is in power. It still does what it is going to do.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Federal Reserve Is Expecting Winter In July

By | 2019, Executive Message, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Last February, St. George, Utah had its biggest snowstorm in 20 years. Nearby, Zions National Park closed. Local schools did a late start. Motorists on the freeway were asked to use snow chains. The storm total? 3.8 inches! So, not that much . . . if one is prepared.

Without a doubt, the greatest risk in such a situation is overconfidence. The same could be said about investing. And even though it is summer, the Federal Reserve is going to start spreading salt on the roads for wintery conditions.

As I write, the Fed is preparing for its 5th meeting of 2019, which will be held July 30th–31st. The overwhelming majority of experts believes the Fed will lower interest rates for the first time in a decade. It would do this to encourage greater borrowing and give the economy a boost.

Celebrating a rate decrease this July is like increasing your speed on a sunny day while the snowplow drivers are starting their engines. Why are the plows heading out?

The U.S. economy has been growing at just over 2 percent for a decade. Tax cuts provided a short-term bump, but it looks like the growth is headed right back to the 10-year trend. That’s not so bad, but it has the Fed nervous.

If the Fed lowers rates at the end of this month, it is sending a signal to the rest of us that the experts believe there may be some rougher weather ahead. They will be dropping the salt on the roads in anticipation. Only time will tell how the forecast and driving conditions will change.

Are you driving too fast for the conditions with your investments? Stocks and bonds have been wildly positive this year, which has some investors too excited. Most of these gains just brought market prices back to where they were before a negative overreaction last December. That drop has had a lasting impact on how most investors feel. In other words, the market data is neither hot nor cold right now, but investors are too focused on one or the other. So, when it comes to your investments, I recommend going the speed you and your advisor decided on in your last review.

Tags: , , , ,

Diversifying Your Investments May Lead To Better Outcomes

By | 2018, Money Moxie, Viewpoint | No Comments

Is this as good as the U.S. economy is going to get? This is the question investors have been asking as storm clouds have settled over the stock market. During all this commotion, a silver lining can be seen with a strategy that may be helpful.

The paradigm shift for stocks, which began in October, is reminiscent of a change in early 2000 when a positive run for technology stocks abruptly ended. Unnoticed by some in 2000, the economy was still growing and a rotation of leadership in the stock market presented investors with new opportunities. This is where diversification can help.

Take a look at the graphic below. Diversification lost when the market lost and made less when the market gained. Despite these disappointing facts, the diversified portfolio would have made more money!

Why does diversification make a difference?

  1. Limiting your losses helps.
  2. No one knows when the market will rise or fall, so any strategy attempting to capture the up and avoid the down is unlikely to do well.
  3. While there is no way to accurately predict the future of any one company, the market tends to rise over long periods of time – making losses temporary for those who stay diversified and invested.

As the storms arise, think of diversification as your umbrella. You may still get a little wet, but it will help. Your long-term perspective and optimism will help you hang on until the sun shines – and it will shine again.

The new year will continue to bring many opportunities for investors, especially with positive economic growth. There are no guarantees, but the current forecast calls for a 2.5 percent increase.

*Diversification History data provided by Blackrock. Diversified portfolio consists of 60 percent stocks and 40 percent bonds. The S&P 500 is often used to represent the U.S. stock market. One cannot invest directly in an index. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Tags: , , ,

Your Leading Indicators

By | 2018, Executive Message, Money Moxie | No Comments

Dear Financial Partners and Friends!

Leading economic indicators are predictive changes that give us clues about the future direction of the economy. Lagging indicators are after the fact. They confirm what has already happened.

Just as the economy has leading and lagging indicators, so does your personal financial preparedness. Regardless of your age, or alternatively, your personal lifecycle, ask yourself where you are in the following questions.

  1. Do you have a three-to-six-month emergency fund that matches your net income?
  2. Are you free of all debt?
  3. If you were to die suddenly, would your family have enough money to live now and through retirement?
  4. Do you have enough money saved for retirement? (See graph below.)
  5. Are the beneficiaries and contingent beneficiaries on your retirement accounts, life insurance policies, etc., the way you desire?
  6. Have you created will(s) and trust(s) and ensured they are up to date?

If you answered “Yes,” to all of these leading indicators, then you are financially prepared for the future. If you answered “Yes,” to most of these, then you are on the right path. If you answered “No,” to most of these, then you should take immediate action. Please come and talk with one of our expert wealth managers who have the experience, credentials, and training to get you to and through your retirement years.

So many changes can take place within a year’s time, that when it comes to your personal finances, it is better to be safe than sorry. The most important people in your life depend on you. Will they be harmed or helped by your preparation or lack thereof?

Bullish Best Wishes,

Roger M. Smedley, CFP®
CEO

Tags: , , , ,

Lessons of the Great Recession

By | 2018, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

In January 2008, stock markets were near all-time highs, U.S. unemployment was at just 5 percent, and George W. Bush was about to sign the Economic Stimulus Act, which provided tax rebates for Americans and tax breaks for businesses. Americans were unaware that the “Great Recession” had already begun (National Bureau of Economic Research).

The consequences of excessive debt began to slowly spread across corporate America. Several companies were on the brink of failure before being saved, including Bear Stearns (March 2008), Countrywide Financial (July 2008), Freddie Mac (September 2008), and Fannie Mae (September 2008). Each of these was saved by unpopular government intervention.

Then came Lehman Brothers. It was “too big to fail,” and yet it did. At 1:45 AM on September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection—the largest and most complex bankruptcy in American history. It had over $619 billion in loans it could not repay and it marked a tipping point: a moment when investors around the world woke up to reality.

There was too much debt, especially American mortgage debt. In 2008, over 800,000 families lost their homes to foreclosure.1 In 2009, there were around 2.5 million.2 Unemployment doubled to a rate of 10 percent.3

The cost of recovery weighed on the government as it shifted the debt from overburdened Americans to the U.S. deficit (Now over $21 trillion).
The Federal Reserve lowered its rates to zero and kept them there for seven years. When that was not enough, it purchased $4.5 trillion dollars of debt—essentially injecting the American economy with money. It seems to have worked by many measurements.

As the economic recovery firmed, the Federal Reserve began to raise rates. At first, it was cautious. Now, it plans to keep going higher at regular intervals. This change may be an important shift.

One day in the future there will be another recession, but it will be different than the Great Recession.

A lot has changed in the last 10 years. Americans have less mortgage debt. The government has much more. While the housing market is strong, it does not seem to be as inflated as 2008.

For now, move forward with optimism and confidence, but don’t forget the lessons of the past. The risk of another economic downturn is real. Whether it comes in 1 year or 10 years, your personal preparation will be valuable.

 

1. “Foreclosures up a Record 81% in 2008,” CNN Money
2. “Great Recession Timeline,” History.com
3. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
4. “Looking Back at Lehman’s Demise,” Wealth Management

Tags: , , , ,

Just In Case You Missed It

By | 2018, Executive Message, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Dear Financial Partners and Friends!

How is the U.S. economy really doing? Here are a few quotes and facts regarding the past, the present, and the future.

The Past: “We Ran Out of Words to Describe How Good the Jobs Numbers Are,” (“The Upshot,” Neil Irwin, The New York Times, June 1, 2018.)

The Present: The U.S. economy jumped to an annualized rate of 4.1 percent GDP in the second quarter of 2018. That’s almost double the first quarter’s rate of 2.2 percent. This is the fastest rate of growth since 2014. This is great news for all of us!

The Future: The following quotes are from Elizabeth MacDonald’s, “Evening Edit,” Fox Business News, July 19, 2018. MacDonald said,“(Here are) CEO commitments for more jobs over the next 5 years.”

FedEx®: “FedEx® will train or reskill 512,000 people over the next 5 years.”

General Motors®: “General Motors® is proud to offer 10,975 workforce training opportunities.”

The Home Depot®: “The Home Depot® is pleased to provide enhanced training and opportunities for 50,000 associates.”

Raytheon®: “Tom Kennedy from Raytheon® and we pledge 39,000 enhanced career opportunities.”

The U.S. economy is doing well. As a result, most Americans are doing well. Remember this: Your financial success is our passion and our mission at Smedley Financial.

Best Wishes,

Roger M. Smedley, CFP®
CEO

Tags: , , , ,

Why We Are Watching Oil In 2018

By | 2018, Money Moxie | No Comments

Despite record U.S. oil production, the price of a barrel has been climbing in 2018. The ripple effects can and will be seen throughout the economy in the coming months.

The average price of regular gasoline in the United States is nearly $3.00 per gallon. One year ago, it was $2.35.1 That’s a 25 percent increase at a time when few expected such a rise.

Most Americans spend between 2 and 4 percent of their income on gasoline,2 so the direct impact on our spending may not seem like a big deal at first.

Americans, accustomed to the lower prices over the last couple years, have also been buying larger and larger cars.

We should also remember that oil is a major ingredient in many products we purchase (as illustrated in the adjacent graphic). While U.S. supply is growing, it has fallen globally.

Oil prices are still far from their all-time high of $136.31 in June of 2008. The domino effect of rising prices has also not been a major concern yet.

Global oil supply is the wildcard. If it increases (a real possibility), prices are unlikely to rise significantly. If it falls, rising prices may spread. Eventually, it could impact our spending.

Remember, consumers, drive 70 percent of the economy. So, if we cut back in our spending then the U.S. economic engine may slow as well. That’s why we are watching oil more closely in 2018.

**************************

(1) GasBuddy.com
(2) U.S. Energy Information Administration
*Research by SFS. Graphic from Visual Capitalist. Investing involves risk, including potential loss of principal. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and may not actually come to pass. This information is subject to change at any time, based upon
changing conditions. This is not a recommendation to purchase any type of investment.

Tags: , , , ,